Just the other day, I was checking our local community events calendar, when I noticed there was an author reading at our local library. I clicked to learn more. Then I did a double-take — Gord Goldsborough was coming to Steinbach?! Andrew and I had to go!
Anyone who’s interested in old stuff in Manitoba will likely recognize the name of Gord Goldsborough — the author of Abandoned Manitoba, and now also the author of More Abandoned Manitoba.
We showed up and squished into the roomful of folks excited to hear Gord speak about old buildings and history and exploring rural Manitoba.
I used to think he was just photographing cool old stuff… but now I know that he’s been documenting Manitoba history, and it began as a project for the Manitoba Historical Society. He’s been researching and documenting places where events took place… places where no trace of that story or that history remains. But he records the GPS coordinates and the story. He said, “Some people may ask why preserve locations when nothing’s there anymore? We’re preserving the memory of what happened there.” (Rough quote.)
Anyone who’s seen his first book will know that he loves grain elevators in particular. He is fascinated by them, as they represent a lot about Manitoba history, but also as they are no longer in use, and quickly disappearing from our landscape. He worries about them.
Gord said that part of what he enjoys about traveling the countryside seeking out these sites, is getting to know a bit more of the “prairie mindset” — for example, at one site near a crumbling grain elevator, some guys had put some couches on a trailer and were sitting there eating Timbits, drinking coffee, and waiting for the elevator to come crashing down!
Speaking of which, if you’d like to follow his countdown, tracking how many grain elevators that are left and where they are, you can visit mhs.mb.ca/countdown
Now, regarding his newest book, you’ll see that his subtitle is Rivers, Rails, and Ruins. He remarked, “The title I REALLY wanted was Biffys, Barns, and Booze.” Ha!
He told us about Port Nelson (located along Hudson Bay), its history, how it came to be built and then abandoned. That’s the place that the railway was supposed to go up to… but when a fair bit had already been built, it was determined to be a terrible port because it’s so shallow. Churchill was declared the new port… and Port Nelson was abandoned as it was. A few years ago, Gord went up there to explore! Jealous.
Goldsborough feels that it’s terrific to visit abandoned places and encourages everyone to get out and do it! BUT we need to do explore respectfully. The problem comes when people trespass and litter and drive vehicles in places they ought not to and damage property. And sometimes, in an effort to make the disrespectful traffic stop, the property owners themselves will then actually destroy the very places folks are coming to see! A cautionary tale. This is why we must be respectful.
Next, he told us about his fascination with cars and licenses from 1912. “Back then, there weren’t roads, you just sort of followed a trail and hoped for the best!” I love that. It’s tough to remember that fact, or to realize what it had been like when cars first arrived on the scene. Fascinating to think about. So, he’s made a map depicting where car ownership was in Manitoba in 1912… not much in Steinbach, ha. He said he figured that’s because Steinbach was small… but really it was likely because the Kleine Gemeinde forbade the driving of cars at the time!
Obviously, we purchased Gord’s new book, and it will serve as an impetus and inspiration for further and future local travels, explorations, and thoughts!